The positioning of a brand

 

Whenever we design a brand in brand design: beautiful images, logos and websites are only the tip of the iceberg of strategic work in the background. The surface of brand design, corporate design and communication makes obvious what requires a lot of work in the background: the interaction of internal and external positioning. Where companies are successful with their brand positioning, brand design closes the only real gap between what a company offers (services, performance, products) and what a target customer needs (performance, sales increase, problem solving).

Positioning is true perception

 

Positioning is perception and the better this is consciously chosen and sharpened, the more clearly a company and its target customer see the value proposition as true.

The previous sentence contains the essence of brand positioning: the alignment of the perceived worlds of company (internal positioning) and customer (external positioning). When both agree that the service (offer) perfectly matches the need (demand), relevance emerges – positioning works.

In reality, this sentence reads easier than it works in everyday life. Vague needs meet vague positioning in everyday business and an unbelievable amount of work goes into clarification (what a customer actually needs) and explanation (how a service fits, even if the need has been adjusted by clarification for explanation). For a customer, poor positioning of potential providers creates a gauntlet that makes them tired. Every provider has a solution that somehow doesn’t quite fit what they are actually looking for.

But suddenly a company comes along the way that has positioned itself well. Not only does it offer the product/service with exactly the wording he is looking for – no – on top of that, the company has deep expertise in its sector and has been serving its industry for years. Excellent! With each uncertainty experienced by the customer due to irrelevant offers along the way, the need for certainty in a solution to the problem that keeps them awake at night increases. The effectiveness of the service offered ironically becomes more secondary in the process described above. Much more important: “finally someone who understands me and can at least provide a solution that I can expect to have at least a small effect through expertise in the industry”. Even if other providers could have been much more successful/faster/effective: in the end, trust in the service that has worked before prevails, no matter how well it compares.

More successful/faster/more effective/more modern…. these are exactly the characteristics of bad positioning of providers who could not convince the customer but wasted a lot of money and effort on the way to explain (marketing, advertising, talks, presentations) why they are faster/more effective/more modern.

The problem that companies with no (or poor internal and external) positioning have is exactly that: they confuse differentiators with positioning.

Marken Positionierung ist Fokus im Brand Design
Marken Positionierung und Differenziatoren im Brand Design

Differentiators are not Positioning

 

Petrol stations are automatically relevant for their customers with cars. My decision whether to go to Aral or Esso (both on the same street) comes from a single differentiator: if I end up in Munich on a Sunday evening and want to do some quick shopping, Aral is the better choice. Why? Because Aral has a built-in Rewe-To-Go shop where I can buy milk, eggs and bread rolls to go with my tankful. My choice of supplier is supplemented by a necessity (filling up) with a convenience (plus shopping). If this convenience (the Rewe shop) falls away, I choose the petrol station that is cheaper for other reasons (price differences in petrol). If only one differentiator falls away, the whole positioning, which never really related to the core of the business (the petrol station), falls away.

It is similar for companies that find and convince customers mainly through convenience: private relationships, cheaper prices, faster (and thus often worse) services. If only one of these weak differentiators falls away as a wobbly leg of the stool, the whole construct falls. The relationship was not created by positioning such as deep expertise in the industry or a specific, non-exchangeable service. It consisted of conveniences that make the basic service (petrol at petrol stations) intrinsically interchangeable.

We learn through that, what brand positioning is not. It is…

 

  • not a promise about a subjective quality (faster, better, more successful,…)
  • not a sentence that masks poor performance through generic communication (in marketing, advertising,…)
  • no abstractly formulated corporate vision that has nothing to do with the mission (actual action)
  • no objection handling in sales aimed at manipulating the customer’s perception

Lack of positioning is lack of clarity

 

For any company with expertise in the knowledge domain or in products and/or services that need explanation, it is clear that it at least vaguely understands the goals of customers and can at least acceptably to optimally fulfil them. For all services in more complex knowledge areas, it is essential to bridge the gap from internal knowledge of benefits to the customer’s perception of them in order to be at all relevant.

Most companies leave this decision to their customers. They remain so vague on websites and in their communication that they could be relevant to as many customers and prospects as possible. Basically, vague equals unclear: the customer’s needs, their search for the right solution and awareness of the business solution is not really clear and understood. And as long as these factors are not really defined and understood, companies leave their positioning to chance – the customer who has sold himself the solution through his interpretation of vague content (in marketing, on websites, etc.).

We have seen this in our work with start-ups with 2 to companies with 500 employees. The size of the company does not reflect how good its positioning is. The (poor) positioning in turn reflects how much effort it takes to grow to this size with incredible explanatory effort and a constant adaptation to customer wishes (through a lack of positioning that does not weed out bad customers) in order to then feed the monster that has been created.

Growth through lack of positioning is fatal

 

Growth with a lack of positioning has many valves that put pressure on the company:

  • increasing market pressure by employing people who were hired especially for a (not really suitable) customer and are still there after the project is over
  • Price pressure due to many comparable alternatives on the market that can offer the price more flexibly or much more cheaply
  • Insecure customer relationships that are unstable due to changing conveniences and can be replaced immediately at any time in the market (cheaper providers, more suitable solutions,…)
  • Weak or non-existent performance of services, which sponge the conveniences to the surface after the failure of a cooperation

Correct positioning creates relevance through exclusion

 

The opposite of growth through lack of positioning is relevance through positioning, which excludes inappropriate customers / employees / prospects. Through it, a company ensures that it offers a specific solution (not convenience) for a defined need (target group) that creates measurable success, which has the following effects for the company:

  • Customer relationships are based on solutions/products that create sustainable success for the customer and not through mutual sympathy or relationships that distract from a lack of performance
  • Expertise and successful performance automatically create a premium price that customers recognise as justified for premium services
  • Relevance in the marketplace makes marketing and sales a breeze, as the company deepens its expertise over time and can advise clients even better (which in turn affects relationships and pricing)
  • The effectiveness of the results becomes obvious to similar clients and prospects and is passed on through referrals

All the points above are logical conclusions that always come true through good positioning. Nevertheless, working on brand positioning seems to be dangerous. Companies fear that narrow and specific positioning will exclude many potential customers at the “bacon edge” of the actual services, and this is exactly the point:

Positioning makes a company unsuitable for many unsuitable customers.

 

Positioning sifts out clients and enquiries to have deep (industry) expertise and a unique USP at the other end of this process that attracts only those clients who can be truly helped effectively (which sets all the positive points of the first list in motion in the first place). Positioning creates effective services, successful client relationships and premium prices based on measurable results.

Accordingly, the question of positioning is the question of clarity. Here are 4 questions that – carefully and boldly clarified – make positioning, differentiation, branding and marketing efficient and effective:

  1. How can we, through horizontal positioning (focus on a specific industry, a highly specific target group, clearly defined need), put our focus on a clearly outlined target group and sift out inappropriate enquiries?
  2. How can we complement the horizontal with deep expertise through vertical positioning (concrete services within the industry, solutions for the specific target group, products that effectively solve the customer need)?
  3. How do we formulate this positioning in our branding and marketing in such a way that the value of our services and/or products becomes immediately comprehensible and relevant to the right target group and irrelevant to poor customer enquiries?
  4. How do we target our sales (lead generation, customer lists, sales) precisely to this sharply defined target group in order to talk about solutions rather than prices?

Your customers are looking for a solution where they can refuel. Refuelling, that means finding the fuel for the success of their entrepreneurial future. The shop in the petrol station is a good addition for extra convenience. However, it should never be confused with what really matters in brand positioning: the fuel.

Brand Positioning & Design

Are you looking for a creative partner to position your brand for the future with branding and corporate identity? Benchmark Design is a Design Agency in Munich. We specialise in creative and solution-oriented brand design, with which our clients define their brand and make it relevant.

The positioning of a brand

 

Whenever we design a brand design: beautiful images, logos and websites are only the tip of the iceberg of strategic work in the background. The surface of brand design, corporate design and communication makes obvious what requires a lot of work in the background: the interaction of internal and external positioning. Where companies are successful with their brand positioning, brand design closes the only real gap between what a company offers (services, performance, products) and what a target customer needs (performance, sales increase, problem solving).

Positioning is true perception

 

Positioning is perception and the better this is consciously chosen and sharpened, the more clearly a company and its target customer see the value proposition as true.

The previous sentence contains the essence of brand positioning: the alignment of the perceived worlds of company (internal positioning) and customer (external positioning). When both agree that the service (offer) perfectly matches the need (demand), relevance emerges – positioning works.

In reality, this sentence reads easier than it works in everyday life. Vague needs meet vague positioning in everyday business and an unbelievable amount of work goes into clarification (what a customer actually needs) and explanation (how a service fits, even if the need has been adjusted by clarification for explanation). For a customer, poor positioning of potential providers creates a gauntlet that makes them tired. Every provider has a solution that somehow doesn’t quite fit what they are actually looking for.

But suddenly a company comes along the way that has positioned itself well. Not only does it offer the product/service with exactly the wording he is looking for – no – on top of that, the company has deep expertise in its sector and has been serving its industry for years. Excellent! With each uncertainty experienced by the customer due to irrelevant offers along the way, the need for certainty in a solution to the problem that keeps them awake at night increases. The effectiveness of the service offered ironically becomes more secondary in the process described above. Much more important: “finally someone who understands me and can at least provide a solution that I can expect to have at least a small effect through expertise in the industry”. Even if other providers could have been much more successful/faster/effective: in the end, trust in the service that has worked before prevails, no matter how well it compares.

More successful/faster/more effective/more modern…. these are exactly the characteristics of bad positioning of providers who could not convince the customer but wasted a lot of money and effort on the way to explain (marketing, advertising, talks, presentations) why they are faster/more effective/more modern.

The problem that companies with no (or poor internal and external) positioning have is exactly that: they confuse differentiators with positioning.

Marken Positionierung ist Fokus im Brand Design
Marken Positionierung und Differenziatoren im Brand Design

Differentiators are not Positioning

 

Petrol stations are automatically relevant for their customers with cars. My decision whether to go to Aral or Esso (both on the same street) comes from a single differentiator: if I end up in Munich on a Sunday evening and want to do some quick shopping, Aral is the better choice. Why? Because Aral has a built-in Rewe-To-Go shop where I can buy milk, eggs and bread rolls to go with my tankful. My choice of supplier is supplemented by a necessity (filling up) with a convenience (plus shopping). If this convenience (the Rewe shop) falls away, I choose the petrol station that is cheaper for other reasons (price differences in petrol). If only one differentiator falls away, the whole positioning, which never really related to the core of the business (the petrol station), falls away.

It is similar for companies that find and convince customers mainly through convenience: private relationships, cheaper prices, faster (and thus often worse) services. If only one of these weak differentiators falls away as a wobbly leg of the stool, the whole construct falls. The relationship was not created by positioning such as deep expertise in the industry or a specific, non-exchangeable service. It consisted of conveniences that make the basic service (petrol at petrol stations) intrinsically interchangeable.

We learn through that, what brand positioning is not. It is…

 

  • not a promise about a subjective quality (faster, better, more successful,…)
  • not a sentence that masks poor performance through generic communication (in marketing, advertising,…)
  • no abstractly formulated corporate vision that has nothing to do with the mission (actual action)
  • no objection handling in sales aimed at manipulating the customer’s perception

Lack of positioning is lack of clarity

 

For any company with expertise in the knowledge domain or in products and/or services that need explanation, it is clear that it at least vaguely understands the goals of customers and can at least acceptably to optimally fulfil them. For all services in more complex knowledge areas, it is essential to bridge the gap from internal knowledge of benefits to the customer’s perception of them in order to be at all relevant.

Most companies leave this decision to their customers. They remain so vague on websites and in their communication that they could be relevant to as many customers and prospects as possible. Basically, vague equals unclear: the customer’s needs, their search for the right solution and awareness of the business solution is not really clear and understood. And as long as these factors are not really defined and understood, companies leave their positioning to chance – the customer who has sold himself the solution through his interpretation of vague content (in marketing, on websites, etc.).

We have seen this in our work with start-ups with 2 to companies with 500 employees. The size of the company does not reflect how good its positioning is. The (poor) positioning in turn reflects how much effort it takes to grow to this size with incredible explanatory effort and a constant adaptation to customer wishes (through a lack of positioning that does not weed out bad customers) in order to then feed the monster that has been created.

Growth through lack of positioning is fatal

 

Growth with a lack of positioning has many valves that put pressure on the company:

  • increasing market pressure by employing people who were hired especially for a (not really suitable) customer and are still there after the project is over
  • Price pressure due to many comparable alternatives on the market that can offer the price more flexibly or much more cheaply
  • Insecure customer relationships that are unstable due to changing conveniences and can be replaced immediately at any time in the market (cheaper providers, more suitable solutions,…)
  • Weak or non-existent performance of services, which sponge the conveniences to the surface after the failure of a cooperation

Correct positioning creates relevance through exclusion

 

The opposite of growth through lack of positioning is relevance through positioning, which excludes inappropriate customers / employees / prospects. Through it, a company ensures that it offers a specific solution (not convenience) for a defined need (target group) that creates measurable success, which has the following effects for the company:

  • Customer relationships are based on solutions/products that create sustainable success for the customer and not through mutual sympathy or relationships that distract from a lack of performance
  • Expertise and successful performance automatically create a premium price that customers recognise as justified for premium services
  • Relevance in the marketplace makes marketing and sales a breeze, as the company deepens its expertise over time and can advise clients even better (which in turn affects relationships and pricing)
  • The effectiveness of the results becomes obvious to similar clients and prospects and is passed on through referrals

All the points above are logical conclusions that always come true through good positioning. Nevertheless, working on brand positioning seems to be dangerous. Companies fear that narrow and specific positioning will exclude many potential customers at the “bacon edge” of the actual services, and this is exactly the point:

Positioning makes a company unsuitable for many unsuitable customers.

 

Positioning sifts out clients and enquiries to have deep (industry) expertise and a unique USP at the other end of this process that attracts only those clients who can be truly helped effectively (which sets all the positive points of the first list in motion in the first place). Positioning creates effective services, successful client relationships and premium prices based on measurable results.

Accordingly, the question of positioning is the question of clarity. Here are 4 questions that – carefully and boldly clarified – make positioning, differentiation, branding and marketing efficient and effective:

  1. How can we, through horizontal positioning (focus on a specific industry, a highly specific target group, clearly defined need), put our focus on a clearly outlined target group and sift out inappropriate enquiries?
  2. How can we complement the horizontal with deep expertise through vertical positioning (concrete services within the industry, solutions for the specific target group, products that effectively solve the customer need)?
  3. How do we formulate this positioning in our branding and marketing in such a way that the value of our services and/or products becomes immediately comprehensible and relevant to the right target group and irrelevant to poor customer enquiries?
  4. How do we target our sales (lead generation, customer lists, sales) precisely to this sharply defined target group in order to talk about solutions rather than prices?

Your customers are looking for a solution where they can refuel. Refuelling, that means finding the fuel for the success of their entrepreneurial future. The shop in the petrol station is a good addition for extra convenience. However, it should never be confused with what really matters in brand positioning: the fuel.

Brand Positioning & Design

Are you looking for a creative partner to position your brand for the future with branding and corporate identity? Benchmark Design is a Design Agency in Munich. We specialise in creative and solution-oriented brand design, with which our clients define their brand and make it relevant.

Benchmark Design

+49 (0) 89 458 132 21
info@benchmark-design.de

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80333 München

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